In an exclusive interview with FenwayNation.com, Sox pitcher Justin Masterson said he was fine with the Red Sox plan to "stretch him out" as a starting pitcher, since he has had the mind set of a starter his whole baseball career. Despite pitching mostly out the bullpen in 2008, and despite plans to have him work in relief again in 2009, the Red Sox have indicated that Masterson will be working out this Spring Training with an eye toward possibly starting as well. With the myriad of injury-possible arms on the staff (Smoltz, Penny, Beckett), and the uncertainty of 2008's heavy innings load on Dice-K and Lester, having a strong young arm like Masterson at the ready (and Buchholz if he's not traded for catching) seems prudent.
Masterson, who was only scheduled for a "cup of coffee" role last year, became a major contributor in the club's run to the ALCS. He began his big league stint as a starter and was later moved to the bullpen. In 36 appearances (and 9 starts) last year, he compiled a 6-5 record with a 3.16 ERA. He yielded 20 fewer hits than innings pitched--often regarded as the best barometer of a pitcher's dominance--and improved his ERA later in the year after the switch to the 'pen. In the post-season, he was a revelation--posting a 1.86 ERA in 9 appearances.
The young right-hander spoke to FenwayNation during a break in his participation in a Jimmy Fund charity event at Jillian's Boston-- around the corner from Fenway Park. Masterson is a legitimate candidate for the "head-screwed-on-right" award, stating, "Start, relieve, it doesn't really matter to me. I just think it's cool being able to pitch in the Major Leagues." Actually, his presence at the Jimmy Fund event on a cold Saturday morning in January is really all the evidence you need.